TCR shows how to murder your way to the top, with humor and music

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Theatre Cedar Rapids — through Feb. 23

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Cast members of ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ at Theatre Cedar Rapids.’ — Studio Reserved

Theatre Cedar Rapids’ staging of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, features an outstanding cast, ensemble and musical direction. Although based on a serious question (“What will people do to get what they believe deserve?”), this musical comedy is energetic and humorous throughout.

Much of that is due to Mic Evans, who plays Monty Navarro. Evans sings, dances and is complicit in a series of deaths that leads to his character’s rise, both socially and economically. Evans is impeccable in this role; he carries the intrigue, music and fun throughout the show. Evans’s presence throughout the show is clever; if you don’t find yourself smiling at his performance, you’re not paying attention.

Mic Evans as Monty Navarro in TCR’s ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.’ — Studio Reserved

Jordan Arnold plays Sibella Hallward, the woman Monty loves and who will not marry him without his having money or title. Monty’s motivation may be love, but his purpose is set into action by Marietta Shingle (Nadine Borngraeber) who informs him that he is ninth in line to the Earldom of Highhurst. Through a series of complications and meetings, not to mention double entendre, Monty endeavors to pursue his birthright.

Those nine members of the D’Ysquith family, through which Monty is determined to rise, are all artfully played by the redoubtable Aaron Murphy. He creates each character with enough similarity and enough difference to make the family into almost a large character in and of itself.

Erin Lauer rounds out the D’Ysquith family in the role of Phoebe. It is Monty’s varied interactions with D’Ysquith family members that create the framework for the his rags to riches story, as well as the story of the sudden deaths of the line of succession in the family.

Aaron Murphy as a member of the D’Ysquith Family, ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,’ Theatre Cedar Rapids. — Studio Reserved

Not unlike Murphy, the ensemble plays a variety of colorful characters that come and go throughout the musical. The energetic musical numbers serve to construct the story, as in the first song, “You’re a D’Ysquith,” and “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” and they add to the humor, as we see in “Better with a Man” and “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying.” Janelle Lauer’s excellent musical direction is key to the fun of this story.

Throughout the show, each number is wonderfully choreographed (Erin Helm). Costumes (Joni Sackett) serve to echo the setting and reflect the social standing of the characters. The entire show is rollicking while being seamless, thanks to direction from Angie Toomsen. Scenic and lighting design by S. Benjamin Farrar create a 3D-like effect in the variety of settings that Monty moves through to meet and murder the family.

Murder is a family affair in ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ at Theatre Cedar Rapids. — Studio Reserved

In the end, the audience understands there may be other deaths on the horizon for those that have not yet met their ends. But, never fear, this show is first and foremost an upbeat comedy that will keep you smiling until the final curtain.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder runs through Feb. 23; tickets are $25-48.

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